Of the Geneva pattern (a round bed with a flat surface at top or back) the Lanco was Australia's only indigenous watchmakers' lathe and appears to have been available only during the late 1940s and early 1950s. However, another make has come to light, though by its appearance it might well be considered to large to be classified as a watchmaker's type - the A.J.Bourke.
The Lanco was built in an initial batch of fifty by an engineer, Bill Taylor, who had a machine shop at 405 Pacific Highway, Lane Cove, N.S.W. As the lathe was judged a success, a second run of fifty was completed, Mr. Taylor's business then becoming Lane Cove Engineering with the lathes continuing to be made but now branded as "Lanco" - from a conflation of "Lane" and "Cove".
Two models were manufactured to take collets of 6 mm and 8 mm. Both lathes were of almost identical appearance, the 6 mm model having a centre height of 39.687 mm (with a single supporting foot at the headstock end of its 8-inch long bed) while the 8 mm had a 53.175 mm centre height and was equipped with an additional bed foot under the tailstock end of its 11-inch bed. The 6 mm model had a spindle bore of 0.235" and the 8 mm 0.310", the former model normally specified with countershaft pulleys intended to generate a top speed of 6000 r.p.m. but the latter geared to run slightly slower at 5000 r.p.m.
Although an Australian-built machine, like many other makers of watch lathes remote from Germany, the Lanco was almost certainly a slightly modified copy of a Lorch - and was even described by its makers as being "of the Lorch type." Both models used plain, cone-type headstock bearings of the traditional high-quality, long-life watch-lathe type fitted, most unusually for this class of lathe, with flip-top oilers. Both models were offered as boxed kits, some rather basic but others containing all the necessary items, including compound slide rests and countershaft units that were essential if serious work was to be undertaken. In April 1947 the basic Lanco - either 6 or 8 mm - complete with a hand T-rest, 10 wire collets from 0.3 to 2 mm, 3 step collets, the collet draw tube, a carrier chuck with male and female centres and packed in a cedar box was offered at £40 : 0s : 0d with a countershaft unit an extra £5 : 10S : 0d. As ever with watchmaker's lathes accessories were expensive: a compound slide rest was £25 (the first fifty lathes had, reportedly, a top slide with a left-hand thread); a milling attachment complete with intermediate pulleys and an auxiliary "overhead" to drive high-speed grinding and milling spindles was £24 : 10s : 0d; a parting off attachment £15; indexing plates £15 each; a lever-action tailstock drilling attachment with a 1/8" capacity Jacobs chuck £4 : 5s : 0d; a double filing roller £6 : 10s : 0d; a single roller filing rest £1 : 15s : 0d; a diamond lap on an arbor ££2 : 10s : 0d; extra cone collets were £1 : 5s : 0d each and three cement chucks with an arbor ££4 : 5s : 0d - all the prices being plus sales tax.
With an excellent cosmetic finish the Lanco appears to have been a well built lathe with close attention to detail - the bed locking screws on the foot, for example, being hardened and "blued".
Lanco also offered a staking set that included 10 anvils and 44 hardened steel punches, the unit being held in the usual maker's cedar box.
During World War 2 there was a grave and serious shortage of machine tools in Australia and it appears that when the Americans, who were there in some in numbers in the later stages of the war, were also in need of them. The story goes that one day a US truck pulled up at Lanco's factory and requisitioned everything they had in stock, filling out an appropriate order form as the goods exited the door. However, though amusing, the story might well be apocryphal….
If you have a Lanco lathe, sales literature or any details concerning the makers the writer would be interested to hear from you.